We (maybe a dozen or so, and probably …

Comment posted Western Ferries signs contract with Cammell Laird for new Dunoon-Gourock ferries by DunoonLad.

We (maybe a dozen or so, and probably more reading these posts) can argue and discuss on here till doomsday, but is anyone who matters going to give a hoot as to what we say? If the politicians (including councillors who had secret talks with various groups) can’t or won’t change things for the better, what chance have a couple of dozen residents got? What is needed is a more organised petition or whatever, and take it from there.

DunoonLad also commented

  • Have to agree with newsroom on their last comment. Why would Western want to jeopardise their route by putting their customers off by the cost of the fares? And why would they spend £1.000.000′s on building new ships when they could just sit back and run the ferries they have, and not bother if customers have to wait hours to travel? They don’t say take it or leave it! Yes, fare increases must be fair, and hopefully the new ferry users group are engaging with Western over fares and passenger facilities. I recall the days pre-Western, when travelling via road to Glasgow was the norm, due to the terrible C.S.P.C. Service which used ramps which raised/lowered vehicles to different levels, and cars were hand pushed round on turntables on the decks! I was too young to know if the fares were reasonable or not, but in the 60′s it was cheaper to travel by road. Western revolutionised car ferry travel on the Clyde and to Islay., but that does not give them a licence to take advantage of the travelling public.
  • It is a real pity that all this alleged support for a town centre vehicle service was not around when it was needed, I.e. for the past three decades! Where we’re all the cars and other vehicles when the town centre service needed them? Had they used the service, it may have still been around. Supporters say that the vehicle service was making a profit before it was withdrawn. How much profit exactly? £1.000′, £10.000, £1000.000 a year? If it was making a profit why were the taxpayers still subsidising it for how much – £1.000.000? Please correct the figures if I am way out, but if the subsidy was approx. correct, what private company would want to take on a relatively loss making service?

Recent comments by DunoonLad

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34 Responses to We (maybe a dozen or so, and probably …

  1. Newsroom,

    Congratulations to WF on signing the contract for two new ferries. If on time they will be delivered to Western in August 2013,” in time to support the Cowal Games in September that year”
    I think if you check your facts you will find Cowal Games is held on the last weekend in August.

    You do not need sharp business intelligence to realise so far there is no prospect of a solution to the A83 landslides ,but does this justify a monopoly on the vehicle ferry route?
    There has also been a sharp increase in fares on this route, particularly to visitors not aware of the opportunity to purchase tickets in local shops before boarding.Excuse given as administration costs.

    The press release from Mike Russell …….”better served than ever with a regular and frequent town centre to town centre passenger service” , Mike Russell is well aware of the problems with this service with regards to cancellations due to moderate weather conditions, breakdowns and servicing to one boat or the other resulting in service reduced to one boat an hour.

    You quote “the ideal water package”, and then say the the result of the Dunoon ward election “would appear to have emboldened Mr Russell”.
    Councillors Walsh and McQueen have always supported the town centre to town centre vehicle ferry service and have been consistent in saying this.
    The Dunoon ward has a new SNP councillor, Michael Breslin, he was quoted pre election in the Dunoon Observer on 4th May “I support a town centre to town centre Dunoon-Gourock ferry because the current situation is unacceptable”.

    It is unacceptable to the people of Dunoon and Cowal and for this reason your assertion we have provision anywhere else would envy doe not wash!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • In fairness, the timetable of Argyll Ferries is perfect. But the boats are a utter joke.

      As for a need for vehicular town centre to town centre ferries, has anyone actually found the need to visit Gourock?
      Aside from the train station and the sodding hospital (great medical staff coupled with moronic management. I hate the requirement to visit), Gourock is basically just a place on a map.

      For which a decent passenger ferry would be ideal. Until such appears, I will continue to use Western Ferries and grudge taking my car.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. The situation with the Dunoon-Gourock car/passenger ferry is that around 30% of people living in the Dunoon and Cowal area do not have a car.
    This number will increase significantly when a one family car is used when a member of the family needs to use the car for work purposes.
    A reliable Dunoon-Gourock car/passenger ferry is essential for many to get to college,hospital and to travel by train to Paisley/Glasgow and beyond.
    That should be the premise of a Dunoon-Gourock car/passenger ferry service.
    A car service on the route would assist towards the running costs of a reliable,regular and safe car/passenger service.
    In 2007 two new ferries was the SNP promise to the people.
    No wonder Jim Mather did not stand for the SNP in 2010!

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  3. The BBC report on this says that the Cammel Laird name was taken over by another company and gives the impression that this company has only repaired and refitted existing ships.

    I hope the Dunoon Ferry curse does not afflict this project.

    Incidentally,newsie, unless you know something I don’t, the Cowal Games is always the weekend of the last Saturday in August, never in September as you mention above. Time for some Tipex (other brands are available)?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. I agree with Mr Ross that “‘Western Ferries’ Gourock to Dunoon service provides a strategic link between the West Coast of Scotland”. A strategic link which is operated by a private company with no price control.

    This is an intolerable situation. Dunoon is marked as one of the two most vulnerable towns in Scotland and the Government gifts sole control of a vital strategic transport link to a private company by breaking a promise. The Skye bridge is free, Erskine bridge is free, the massively expensive Forth road bridges are and will be free. What is the Scottish Government going to do about the very high cost of using the strategic vehicle ferry service to Dunoon?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • What an utterly fascinating comment Ferryman.

      I’ve been an ardent supporter of Western but you’ve just made the single ‘game changing’ argument which forces me to change my position on the ferry subject.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • It is nice to think that bridges are free but of course they are an extension of the road network and thus covered by both general and road specific taxes. Motorists pay through the nose for bridges (and roads in general).

      It has long been an objective of the SNP to work towards a road equivalent tariff for all essential ferry services (and we have seen some progress on this) so I agree with the general principle that the cost of essential ferries should be covered by road taxation (as they are the equivalent of bridges).

      However, as soon as you go down this particular thought path you hit some practical objections. Just looking at the Dunoon-Gourock services: what level of service is actually essential and what is not? And what of the role of private operators? Roads are entirely state funded but ferries are not (and least not all of them). Are we arguing that private operators should be entirely state subsidised? Or are we going to nationalise all private ferry services?

      Also, the argument for RET is fine where there is no road access (such as for, say, Mull) but can this argument really be maintained for a mainland town such as Dunoon? Would this not mean that the good burghers of Dunoon were being subsidised (at least) twice?

      Sadly, as with so much in life, the reality is complex, bound up in lots of rules and not amenable to simple solutions.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Perhaps the SNP would consider – once Scotland’s hydrocarbon revenues are Scotland’s to spend – treating Dunoon to a tunnel from the Gourock side – followed by a tunnel linking Gourock and Kilcreggan, and a tunnel (or bridge) linking Rosneath and Rhu. Fantasyland? no – exactly this has happened in Norway to link Alesund to island suburbs and airport. Ambitious (under some very deep channels) and expensive, but vital in tying together the area to its huge social and financial benefit.

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      • Under the much talked about EU regulations Dunoon is the equivalent of an island.

        There is certainly a role for private operators, I have used Western for many years, but not as a monopoly operators with no limit on profit.

        Because of its geographic location Cowal and all the businesses in it are a cash cow for the ferry route.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Point of fact: there is no evidence in Western Ferries past or present performance of a desire to squeeze out as much profit as possible from this rote. Quite the reverse.
      Logically, your argument is a valid one and interesting from that point of view.
      Were Western to go baldly for massive price hikes – just because they could – they could not rule out the arrival of competition operating from the council owned linkspan in Dunoon and running in to Gourock for just under whatever hypothetically inflated huge price Western might have levied.
      From having watched Western’s operations with some interest, we see the company basing its business plan on driving up its profits on the most secure basis – a contended and growing market paying a fair price in line with inflation, generating reliable but not extreme profits and offering little scope for get-rich-quick opposition.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Why do you say they need to hike prices to squeeze excess profit from the route?

        They have been running it without real competition for years, they are ALREADY squeezing it.

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  5. My recollection is that Cammel Laird Ltd went into insolvency and the company operating the shiprepair docks on the Mersey then changed it’s name to Cammel Laird

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  6. It is a real pity that all this alleged support for a town centre vehicle service was not around when it was needed, I.e. for the past three decades! Where we’re all the cars and other vehicles when the town centre service needed them? Had they used the service, it may have still been around. Supporters say that the vehicle service was making a profit before it was withdrawn. How much profit exactly? £1.000′, £10.000, £1000.000 a year? If it was making a profit why were the taxpayers still subsidising it for how much – £1.000.000? Please correct the figures if I am way out, but if the subsidy was approx. correct, what private company would want to take on a relatively loss making service?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • DunoonLad you did not answer the simple questions put to you in another post about why one of two identical ferry services should make five times the profit of the other just because one (the profitable one) sailed on the hour and the other (the unprofitable one) sailed at 10 past the hour.

      If you cannot grasp the importance of timetables and their effect on traffic volumes there is no point in trying to conduct a sensible discussion with you on this.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        • Several people, including Dunoonlad, routinely trot out the idea that people did not support the CalMac ferry service under a number of different topics. He did so again here.

          In my example one ferry company makes five times the profit of the other just because it sails 10 minutes earlier.

          In the case of CalMac they were shackled by having fewer sailings per hour and sailing for fewer hours per day. As you would anticipate they carried fewer vehicles, though probably more than could reasonably be expected from the timetable.

          The Government could easily have lifted the timetable restricitions whilst the old service was running. With an even playing field we would have seen the true popularaties of the two services.

          I have no doubt they would be broadly equal and, for some reason, it was not wished to make that apparent.

          Indeed it is not incoceivable that, unfettered, the already profitable vehicle portion might have generated sufficient revenue to mean no overall subsidy (even for passengers) was required.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          • Calmac was shackled by having primitive boats, from a passenger point of view – and although the cafe was a nice feature (but not really necessary for such a short run, while undoubtedly helping to make the passenger service uneconomic) the boarding arrangements were astonishingly bad, compounded by a steep exposed stair down from the upper deck to the lounge. I wasn’t a regular user of this service, and it seemed to me that the boats – however seaworthy – were nowhere near the quality of what passengers could reasonably expect. (and don’t get me started on the dismal facilities at Gourock for passengers transferring between boat and train)

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  7. Have to agree with newsroom on their last comment. Why would Western want to jeopardise their route by putting their customers off by the cost of the fares? And why would they spend £1.000.000′s on building new ships when they could just sit back and run the ferries they have, and not bother if customers have to wait hours to travel? They don’t say take it or leave it! Yes, fare increases must be fair, and hopefully the new ferry users group are engaging with Western over fares and passenger facilities. I recall the days pre-Western, when travelling via road to Glasgow was the norm, due to the terrible C.S.P.C. Service which used ramps which raised/lowered vehicles to different levels, and cars were hand pushed round on turntables on the decks! I was too young to know if the fares were reasonable or not, but in the 60′s it was cheaper to travel by road. Western revolutionised car ferry travel on the Clyde and to Islay., but that does not give them a licence to take advantage of the travelling public.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Western are putting on new ships to cope with the 60,000 extra vehicle crossings per year they have just been given as a present.

      Western have been running without any real competition for decades and are I believe already making profits well in excess of industry norms. The SNP by going back on their promise have given them a complete monopoly.

      Think of airlines. There are two way to run them, high cost and low volume or low cost and high volume. In the absence of competition low volume high cost (as we have at the moment on the vehicle ferry) is the easy option.

      The government ferry review made it quite clear that reducing costs for vehicles on other routes increased not only vehicle numbers but passenger numbers – to the point where the services were having difficulty coping.
      I wish that was the problem here.

      The money Western makes leaves the local economy and the high fares reduce traffic numbers which also hits the local economy.

      As to the profit generated by vehicles on the old streaker service the EU itself published figures showing it was making about £0.5M/year – despite being hamstrung by a stupid timetable.

      Why when the streakers were still on the route did the Government not simply allow it to run an unrestricted timetable. I think its obvious, running unrestricted it would have been far too clear that it could have operated very profitably indeed.

      I have nothing against Western, long may they operate – but either with competition or their profits limited to acceptable levels.

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  8. We (maybe a dozen or so, and probably more reading these posts) can argue and discuss on here till doomsday, but is anyone who matters going to give a hoot as to what we say? If the politicians (including councillors who had secret talks with various groups) can’t or won’t change things for the better, what chance have a couple of dozen residents got? What is needed is a more organised petition or whatever, and take it from there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • There seems to be a political sickness on the lower Clyde that is responsible for a lot more than just the Dunoon – Gourock ferry saga.
      The very poor performance of the SPTE is one symptom, and the apparent muddle over how to organise publicly funded ferry services, with the Scottish and European authorities trying to navigate their way through a legislative minefield is another symptom. Fragmented responsibility for landing facilities just adds to the problem, as does the apparent inability to provide easy transfer between passenger rail and ferry services at Gourock. Will all this ever be resolved unless there’s a really effective passenger transport authority for the area? Who else but the Holyrood government can take the initiative (and show that they really can govern)?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • There was and is no minefield of legislation. The SNP promised vehicle ferries, went back on their promise and have then tried to use the EU as a smokescreen;

        In 2009 the EU said the route had to be tendered, it said the vehicle portion should not be subsidised and that the vehicle and passenger portions should publish separate accounts. In the same report the EU showed that the vehicle portion had been running a profit since 2002. The report also made it clear that vessels could be supplied, provided they were offered on the same terms to all bidders.

        Following the report separate accouts began to be kept and these showed that the vehicle portion continued to be profitable – despite being hamstrung by a ridiculous timetable.

        The government tendered documents, when eventually produced, permitted a vehicle service to be offered. Though of course without the promised vessels this was doomed.

        Where is the legal minefield. Everything was already in place at the time of the tender apart from the promised vessels.

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        • Ferryman, I think that there very clearly is a ‘minefield of legislation’. The sheer laboriousness and cost (in money, time, and damage to the ongoing provision of fit for purpose ferry links) of the processes involved by the Holyrood governments over recent years in their attempts to reconcile the operation of the publicly owned and managed ferry system with European competition rules point to this. There’s a risk of being so fixated on the Dunoon – Gourock saga, which has been hamstrung by the historic failure of the traditional route to change to match demand, that the bigger picture is being missed. You don’t mention SPT; count yourself fortunate if you don’t live on the Rosneath peninsula, and if you look further afield there are clearly huge potential disadvantages in ‘balkanising’ the Calmac routes, whatever the advantages of introducing private initiative – and ‘cherrypicking’ remains another obvious problem.

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          • Please explain the minefield.
            Please explain the difficulties.
            The EU statement was clear simple and already being comlied with.

            As I said the problem was that the SNP did not deliver on their promise to supply vessels. Why they went back on their promise was never stated. Jim Mather has the decency to resign. Mike Russell hides behind “it was before my time”, Nobody has given a clear statemnt of why they did not deliver their promise. I am confident they cannot blame the EU.

            You also seem to have some kind of fetish about the boarding arrangements to the streaker service. How frequently did you use them?

            If I recall past post on this subject it certainly was not daily. So please defer to people who actually use the services and know something about them.

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  9. Ferryman: If you think that my criticism of the boarding arrangements to the streaker service is ‘some kind of fetish’ you’ve no real idea of what a decent passenger ferry should be like. You’re right that I wasn’t a regular user of the service, and for that I’m very thankful. If you were – as a passenger – it beggars belief that you’re so ignorant of just how bad the boarding facilities were by any reasonable current-day standards.

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  10. To Robert Wakeman,

    Your arrogance on this subject is staggering. People are struggling to get to and from work, college and hosptial appointments and your regular contribution to this blog is that you did not like the boarding arrangements on the old service which you used once in a blue moon?

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    • Not arrogance – just astonishment that you’d wish to defend such a poor arrangement, and I wonder if the boarding system for the current ferries is any easier? ‘Struggling’ could well be right.

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      • If the choice is between ships that sail or bathtubs that don’t the answer is a no-brainer;
        I prefer a ship that sails.

        As to whether or not the new bathtubs are easier to use I’ll leave the decision on that to people with difficulties. For example the blind woman who took Alec Salmond to task on national radio over the problems she had using the unstable new service and that Michael Russell MSP would not reply to her emails.

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      • It may not be arrogance, though I would not be so sure!

        It is most certainly ignorance, you have no concept of the problems facing the people of Dunoon and Cowal in trying to use this service.

        Your masters in the snp promised two NEW ferries for this route and this betrayal of the people of this area will not be forgotten despite your continued pronouncements on this subject.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. I’ve been a keen supporter of Western Ferries since they started the Clyde route. Their excellent business plan and first rate service is a credit to the company and they deserve all their success.

    However… There is a downside. Without any connection to the Dunoon Linkspan there is going to be a remarkable change in town.

    Already I notice on this years trip to the Games, Dunoon has lost its toursty feel. The promonade now feels more like a small port while West bay and the Castle Gardens are the only real memory to the past when the town jumped high for visitors.

    The once beautiful pier is now looking tired and the vulture effect is setting in. I wonder what is next to be removed for health and safety reasons. There is no economic good reason to use the central Dunoon piers, they can only exist with subsidy, which has been cancelled.

    The Cowal peninsula is one of Scotland’s wonders and Dunoon was its gateway. Now with a disused old pier joined by an ‘almost disused’ new one the diamond has fallen from the ring. The closing of the Ceramics, many hotels and a number of the grand houses loosing their sparkle I fear its turning into a different place. Jim Crow definitely isn’t smiling.

    I really admire the owners from the shops and the businesses in the town who keep the heartbeat going but the Dunoon of yester-year is changing, and the days of a busy pier will probably not return.

    It will take a tough leader to swing Dunoon back into a hub for visitors, and it needs someone to shout, and shout loud! The Games, the Festival, and a number of new events are the spark for the future to avoid Dunoon becoming another humdrum working town.

    Western Ferries are to be applauded for their hard work, but the planning of the linkspan by those involved was a big mess up. Please please please don’t let the rot set in. The town of Dunoon has a special place in many peoples hearts, and it deserves a better future than the one I see it taking.

    Good news for Western should be carried through to the town with more events, shows and festivals. Easy for someone to say, but it IS the future.

    Great new ferries, but lets keep the traffic turning left!

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